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First Bali bombings trial begins DENPASAR - The trial of the first suspect in the October 12 Bali bombings has begun with around 3,000 security personnel deployed in and around the courthouse on the Indonesian resort island.

The key suspect, a 40-year-old mechanic known only as Amrozi is facing four charges related to the nightclub attacks which killed over 200 people, most of them tourists including 88 Australians. As the trial began, prosecutors read aloud more than 30 pages of charges against Amrozi. If found guilty he could face the death penalty.
The bombings -- the worst terrorist attack in Indonesia's recent memory -- have been blamed by police on an al Qaeda-linked militant Islamic group, Jemaah Islamiyah. Amrozi faces a panel of five judges who will hear a detailed summons accusing him of buying the explosives used in the attack, hiding them in his village in East Java, sending them by bus to Bali and helping assemble the bombs which were detonated at two nightclubs in the resort town of Kuta.
The case is expected to be clear-cut with Amrozi having confessed to buying the chemicals and helping make the bombs in what he told police was a "jihad" or "holy war" against Westerners. In a public interrogation soon after his arrest on November 5 last year, Amrozi told Indonesian police he was "delighted" by the carnage of the blasts.
Police -- who investigated the bombings along with their Australian counterparts -- say they have a strong case, including testimony from 102 witnesses and receipts for the explosive materials and the chassis of the minivan used in the attack, the Associated Press reports. "We are certain the charges will be proven," a spokesman for the Bali Prosecutor's Office said.
The case is expected to run for five months and Amrozi could be executed by firing squad if found guilty of the charges. Another 32 people also face trial over the attacks, which have been labeled "Asia's September 11". These include the alleged ringleader of the plot, Imam Samudra, and two of Amrozi's older brothers -- suspected bomb-making expert Ali Imron, and Mukhlas, a known leader in Jemaah Islamiyah and the spiritual guide to the group.
In November Imam Samudra told police that one of the explosions was detonated by a suicide bomber who walked into Paddy's Irish Bar with explosives strapped to his back a device he described as a "jihad bomb." Samudra is believed to be a key member of Jemaah Islamiyah. Months later in February, Ali Imron gave a detailed confession in which he described how he put together the bombs, one of which was a car packed with explosives. He said the target was America and its allies.
His confession also included an apology to the families of victims from both inside and outside Indonesia. However, several other key suspects remain at large, most notably al Qaeda-linked operative known as Hambali, whom police describe as a terrorist mastermind. The case is being seen as a test of Indonesia's willingness to crack down on radical Islamic groups in what is the world's largest Muslim nation.


While Indonesian police have had considerable success in arresting Bali suspects, international opinion of Indonesia's efforts will only be satisfied if prosecutors and the courts are seen to deliver justice. The predominantly Hindu island of Bali had previously enjoyed a reputation for peace and tranquility, an exception in a vast archipelago nation wracked for years by ethnic and separatist violence.
In the wake of the bombings, the nation of 210 million had been widely criticized for failing to act on repeated warnings that Islamic terrorists were infiltrating its porous borders and establishing a base of operations. Governments slapped travel warnings on Indonesia and tourist arrivals dropped by 80 percent.
Southeast Asia analyst Joseph Wanandi told CNN Monday that he believed Indonesia was now "on board" in the war against terrorism and that the threshold for terrorists to act in the republic had been raised. He said these actions, including intelligence work and an immigration crackdown, had possibly already prevented subsequent terrorist activity in Indonesia.

Posted in Protests @ 12 May 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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